Travel writer Lorraine Karabin flew out to the Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE and an up and coming under-the-radar travel destination. Here she tells us about her Arabian adventures…
Not many people have heard of Ras Al Khaimah, so I jumped at the chance of uncovering somewhere a little under-the-radar. One of the seven emirates, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is the northernmost state of the UAE, and is under an hour from Dubai. A popular holiday spot for weekenders escaping the frenetic city life of Dubai, the relaxed pace in RAK carries much appeal for Emiratis and international guests alike.
With a desert climate, the year-round warm weather is perfect if you like some winter sun. November to March is the ideal time to visit with temperatures averaging 18-25°C, before the summer where temperatures can soar to 45°C. With a flight time of approximately seven hours, we flew out to RAK with Royal Brunei Airlines to kick off our Arabian adventures in the desert – read more about my airline experience here.
Spending a week in the sun, we had a nice balance between relaxing and partaking in some more active pursuits. Staying at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa, my suite to retreat to each evening was nothing short of a haven. With a dining room, lounge, a huge bed for restful slumber and two balconies to relax and watch the world go by, it didn’t take long to ease into holiday mode.
A spa sanctuary
Our first day on resort, I hot-footed it over to the resort spa for an hour’s deep tissue massage to kick start a week of sun and serenity. Greeted by the spa team with a refreshing honey-infused tea and a hot towel, it marked the perfect beginning to feeling more human after our arrival in the early hours of the morning. While relaxing in the spa lobby, I was able to select fragranced oil for my treatment, I opted for the ylang-ylang and was not disappointed.
The therapist eased out all the knots in my neck – after years of office work and cradling phones on my shoulder it’s no wonder there were so many knots. But considering how deeply rooted these were I was amazed at how quickly she managed to relieve years of tension and pain. The massage focuses on the whole body, so it was a real treat to be able to feel completely zenned out from head to toe.
Feeling a little sleepy, the relaxation room at the spa was a welcome part of the spa day to continue the effects over a green tea and yearn for every day to be a spa day! The spa also has a whirlpool, sauna and steam room which boost the effects of your spa treatment and ensure you leave feeling pampered and stress-free.
And luckily for me, the wellness didn’t end there. A few days later, I visited the Banyan Tree Al Wadi Resort –just a 40-minute drive from our hotel – to try out their Rainforest Experience. The experience starts with a walk-through shower with jets to lightly revive the body, before moving on to heat and ice pools to help cleanse the skin.
The circuit continues along the hot and cold premise, with ice bucket showers, saunas and steam rooms to boost the cleansing effects. With twelve different areas, it’s hard to pick a favourite, but the vitality pool at the end of the one hour experience definitely earns its place as the finale.
Four powerful water jets take care of those tensed up areas which are eased as the water pummels the muscles at such an unbelievable force. If you have lots of activities planned for your break, you should certainly consider the Rainforest Experience to retain your state of zen and make the most of your well-earned relaxing break.
A foodie’s delight
Trying out the local food is always a major part of exploring new places for me, and little did I know I was in for a real feast. Only a short drive from our resort, Maraheb serves up Yemeni cuisine and the dining setting was something of a novelty. Footwear must be removed before you sit down on the floor to dine while waiters serve up dishes on a makeshift tablecloth.
Keen to try some traditional food, we opted for the Mandi meat and grilled fish feast for lunch, which allowed us to try a variety of specially spiced meats accompanied by perfectly cooked rice. Being a Muslim country and therefore ‘dry’, it was amazing to see and sample a number of fruit smoothies and mocktails on offer in RAK – and the mango smoothie made a fruity and refreshing change.
Staying a week at the Hilton gave me ample opportunity to try out some of the on-resort restaurants and Al Bahar, located next to the main pool deck, was one of the best. Perfect for lunch, go for some of the hot and cold mezze options to sample some local delights.
I ordered an Arabian mezze of hummus with lamb and pine seeds, cheese rakakat and lamb soujouk for just 52 Dirhams which is less than £10. The creamy hummus was the best I have ever tasted, the cheese parcels with shallots and parsley were a divine treat and the lamb sausages with bell peppers were full of spice and flavour.
Following lunch, it was definitely time to hit the sun loungers and enjoy the resort’s private beach to let our lunch go down. Like Dubai, the hotels here are not dry zones, which means you can enjoy a cocktail or two on the resort before you venture out for the evening. The rooftop lounge above Al Bahar made a great sunset ending to an unforgettable relaxing break and the ideal setting to reflect on your Arabian adventures.
Holiday Offer – a great deal on Ras Al Khaimah!
Ras Al Khaimah is an up and coming destination for those seeking guaranteed sunshine, fun water sports, fine cuisine, unique desert adventures, relaxing spa treatments, and uncrowded luxury resorts. Perfect for a winter’s sun break, Arabian Desert Safari are offering some really great value package deals where prices start from just £385 which include flights with Royal Brunei Airlines, a five-star hotel (with breakfast included) and free transfers. Children also stay free!